Glossary for the GEM Building Taxonomy V2.0
Authors: Luke Allen, Andrew Charleson, Svetlana Brzev, and Charles Scawthorn
This online Glossary explains around 400 terms contained in the GEM Building Taxonomy v 2.0 and nearly 700 images. The terms have been listed in an alphabetical order. Text description of each term is accompanied by illustrations (photos and/or drawings) where possible. Alternatively, any term can be accessed by clicking on its name listed in a taxonomy table. There is a taxonomy table for each of 13 main attributes of the GEM Building Taxonomy, and these can be accessed through the BUILDING TAXONOMY OVERVIEW PAGE.
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We welcome contributions in the form of photographs or images, illustrating glossary terms. To submit your contribution, please read this short Photo Contribution Guideline, and then submit your photos using this ONLINE FORM.
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- 10-19 Units [RES2D]
- Apartments, condominiums, townhouses of 10-19 units. Residential units are structurally connected.
- 2 Units (duplex) [RES2A]
- Two residential units joined together. Can be stacked vertically, or joined horizontally as two semi-detached houses.
- 20-49 Units [RES2E]
- Apartments, condominiums, townhouses of 20-49 units. Residential units are structurally connected.
- 3-4 Units [RES2B]
- Apartments, condominiums, townhouses of 3-4 units. Residential units are structurally connected.
- 5-9 Units [RES2C]
- Apartments, condominiums, townhouses of 5-9 units. Residential units are structurally connected.
- 50+ Units [RES2F]
- Apartments, condominiums, townhouses of 50+ units. Residential units are structurally connected.
- Adjoining building(s) on one side [BP1]
- The building has adjoining or attached building(s) on one side; this includes corner buildings (end buildings within a block) and semi-detached buildings (with two housing units).
The building shown in black in this plan view has an adjoining building on one side.
An example of a building within a block with adjoining buildings on one side, Vancouver, Canada (left photo: S. Brzev, right: Map data ©2013 Google, Province of British Columbia, DigitalGlobe)
Semi-detached townhouse, adjoining building on one side, New Zealand (L. Allen).
Semi-detached house, adjoining building on one side, Constitution, Chile (S. Brzev).
A building on a corner, with an adjoining building on one side, Seattle, USA (S. Brzev).
- Adjoining buildings on three sides [BP3]
- The building has adjoining or attached buildings on three sides (typically one building on each side, and one behind). An example is a building within a block, that is also adjacent to a building in the back.
The building shown in black in this plan view has adjoining buildings on three sides.
- Adjoining buildings on two sides [BP2]
- A building, usually located on a street corner, with adjoining or attached buildings on two sides. This includes mid-terrace buildings, buildings which are a part of the row of at least three buildings, or corner buildings with adjoining buildings on two perpendicular sides.
Example 1: the building shown in black in this plan is located within a block and it has adjoining buildings on two sides.
Example 2: the building shown in black in this plan view is located on a corner and has adjoining buildings on two perpendicular sides.
An example of a building within a block with adjoining buildings on two sides, Vancouver, Canada (left photo: S. Brzev, right: Map data ©2013 Google, Province of British Columbia, DigitalGlobe)
A corner building with adjoining buildings on two perpendicular sides, New Zealand (L. Allen).
A corner building with adjoining buildings on two perpendicular sides, Talca, Chile (S. Brzev).
Terrace housing with adjoining houses on two sides, New Zealand (L. Allen)
A midrise building in Santiago, Chile with adjoining low-rise buildings on two sides (S. Brzev)
- Adobe blocks [ADO]
- Sun-dried (or air-dried), unfired mud (clay) masonry, where the clay is cast into blocks (and sometimes into bricks) and then laid, as opposed to walls constructed in-place out of earth, as in earth construction (cob or rammed earth). Adobe blocks can be used both in unreinforced and reinforced masonry construction. Several types of reinforcement are available, including wood, bamboo/cane, or fibre reinforcing mesh.
Adobe blocks are commonly used for single-family housing in Peru (N. Tarque)
Tw-storey adobe building in Cuzco, Peru (S. Brzev)
Adobe house, Iran (A. Bakshi, M.A.Ghannad, and M. Yekrangnia)
Adobe construction, Tajikistan (J. Niyazov)
Manufacturing of adobe blocks in Peru (left - M. Blondet) and different sizes of adobe blocks (right- S. Brzev)
Adobe blocks of different shapes and sizes, Peru (S. Brzev)
A recently constructed adobe wall, Chile (S.Brzev)
Existing adobe buildings built in early 1900s in Chile (left) and a building damaged in the 2010 Maule earthquake (right) (S. Brzev)
Mission Dolores (built in 1788) is the oldest building in San Francisco, California, USA; the building was constructed using adobe blocks (see photo on the right) (S. Brzev)
Exposed adobe walls in a 19th century adobe building in Sonoma, California (S. Brzev)
- Agricultural processing [AGR3]
- A building used for any agricultural process. This includes sorting of produce, milking of cows, abattoirs.
- Agriculture [AGR]
- The building is used for farming and produce growing purposes.
- Agriculture, unknown type [AGR99]
- The building is used for agriculture, but it is not known what type of agricultural use.
- Airport [COM10]
- A building or group of buildings that accompany a landing strip for aircraft, for loading and unloading of passengers.
- Animal shelter [AGR2]
- A building in which animals are reared, or where they take shelter.
- Approximate date of construction or retrofit [YAPP]
- This is the best estimate of construction date if it is not known precisely. E.g. the construction likely took place between 1930 and 1940, so the year entered is 1935.
- Approximate height of ground floor level above grade [HFAPP]
- The approximate height of the ground floor above grade can be determined by the surveyor where the exact height is not clear from survey or drawing.
Example: HFAPP:0.5 (approximately 0.5 m)
- Approximate number of storeys above ground [HAPP]
- An approximate number of storeys above ground can be determined by the surveyor where the exact number of storeys above ground is not clear from survey or drawing. The number of the floors above ground includes the ground floor and floors above. It also includes storage and mechanical plant levels only if these cover over 50% of the plan area, but does not include basements below ground. If the building is stepped in height, then record the highest part.
where n = approximate number of storeys above ground level (integer)
Example: HAPP:2 (approximately two-storey high building)
This building in Manilla, Philippines is approximately 20 storeys high (C. Scawthorn)
- Approximate number of storeys below ground [HBAPP]
- An approximate number of storeys below ground can be determined by the surveyor where the exact number of storeys above ground is not clear from survey or drawing. This does not include the ground floor. It includes storage and mechanical plant levels only if these cover over 50% of the plan area.
- Arena [ASS2]
- A large sporting venue with seating for more than 1000 spectators. Seating can be indoor or outdoors.
Refer also to Recreation and Leisure for sporting venues with fewer spectators.
- Assembly [ASS]
- The building is a place of worship, or a membership organisation such as a club or society.
- Assembly, unknown type [ASS99]
- It is clear that the building is a building used for religion or non-profit organisations, but the exact type of this use is unknown.
- Bamboo [WBB]
- Hollow-stemmed plant. Its stiff tubular stems, sometimes up to 150-200 mm diameter, are used as a building material. It is commonly used as split and woven construction, in the form of trusses and frames. Bamboo construction has been traditionally used in South-East Asia (India), East Asia (China), South Pacific, and to certain extent in Central and South America.
Bamboo grove in Kyoto, Japan (M. Brzev)
Bamboo frame construction on stilts found in flood- and earthquake-prone areas such as Assam, India (People in Centre)
Bamboo frame construction, Assam, India (People in Centre)
Woven bamboo mats are used in low-income housing in Central America (www.guaduabamboo.com/images/low_income_bamboo_housing.jpg)
Traditional Bahay Kubo homes in Phillipines are built using bamboo (http://slr07.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/bahay-kubo.jpg)
- Bamboo, cane or rope reinforced [RB]
- The wall is bamboo-, cane-, or rope-reinforced, as sometimes used in adobe walls.
Mud wall with bamboo reinforcement, Kenya (K. Jaiswal)
Adobe wall with vertical cane reinforcement, Peru (M. Blondet)
Adobe wall with cane reinforcement, Peru (S. Brzev)
- Bamboo, straw or thatch roof [RWO5]
- The surface of the roof is made from reed materials such as bamboo, straw or thatch; laid onto wood battens, with a primary structure of wood members. No sheet material is used for the roofing.
Thatch roof, Nepal (M. Schildkamp)
Straw roof, Chile (S. Mihaldzic)
Bamboo roof, Malawi (M. Sassu and I. Ngoma, World Housing Encyclopedia Report 46)
- Basalt [SPBA]
- Basalt is a dark-colored, fine-grained, igneous volcanic rock which is hard and dense. Individual mineral crystals are typically hard to see with the naked eye, although some kinds can contain larger crystals, or it may have holes that are empty (bubbles) or filled with other minerals. Basalts are generally black or dark grey and polish well. As a result, they are not easily scratched by metal objects. Basalt is often used for paving and ocasionally for wall construction.
Stone masonry building - walls are likely to be a mix of basalt and trachyte stones with variation in block size and colour (J. Bothara)
A stone masonry building built in 1920s in Christchurch, New Zealand; exterior stonework is Halswell basalt with Oamaru limestone facings (W. Clark)
A 19th century stone masonry construction: exterior wall wythe is fine grained grey Halswell basalt, with facing stones and base course of pinkish-brown Port Hills trachyte and string courses of speckled Hoon Hay basalt; Canterbury Provincial Buildings complex, Christchurch, New Zealand (W. Clark)
- Bolted connections [BOL]
- Structural steel or timber members are bolted together with steel bolts and nuts.
Bolted connection of three steel members joined at a column, Canada *S. Brzev)
- Braced frame [LFBR]
- A framework of beams and columns in which inclined, often diagonal, structural members brace the building and provide strength and rigidity. The bracing can take a variety of forms. If diagonal members are stocky they resist both tension and compression forces. However if slender, they resist tension forces only. Usually, braced frame members are triangulated and meet at joints (similar to a vertical truss). Eccentrically Braced Frames are the exception - their inclined members are deliberately offset at joints in order to create ductile fuse regions in the steel beams. Braced Frames may or may not be infilled.
A simplified drawing of a typical cross-braced frame structure (A. Charleson, Seismic Design for Architects, Architectural Press 2008, p. 64, Fig. 5.2).
Examples of different types of braced frames (A. Charleson, Seismic Design for Architects, Architectural Press 2008, p. 77, Fig. 5.23).
Exterior braced frame as a retrofit scheme for a reinforced concrete building, Mexico (C. Scawthorn)
Braced frame (Chevron braces), Seattle, USA (S. Brzev)
Eccentrically braced steel frame under construction, New Zealand (A. Charleson)
Concentrically braced steel frame under construction, Canada (S. Brzev)
Concentrically braced frame, India (A. Charleson)
Braced frame, Iran (A. Charleson)
Steel braced frame, Seattle, USA (S. Brzev)
Exterior steel braced frame as a retrofit solution, University Hall, University of Berkeley, California (S. Brzev)
Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing, China has a 3-D braced frame structural system (S. Brzev)
- Building occupancy class - detail
- A more detailed occupancy description than the Building occupancy class - general
- Building occupancy class - general
- The main overall type of occupancy